Shuttle-UM and the Black Student Union

Recently, we told you about Shuttle UM’s 40th Anniversary and the new addition to the Records of Shuttle-UM held in the University Archives. In a comment on that post, a reader asked that the Black Student Union be properly credited for their role in the organization’s history. As the records themselves don’t offer much information on this point, we conducted some additional research, which we summarized in our reply. Here, we present more detail regarding information within the collection and what our additional research turned up.

The earliest and most detailed written history of Shuttle-UM in the collection is a June 1976 paper from the Office of Commuter Student Affairs. It states that in fall of 1972, in response to a series of nighttime assaults and rapes, the Student Government Association submitted a proposal to the Chancellor for increased police patrols, improved lighting, and the funding of the nighttime shuttle bus. The requests were granted, and responsibility for implementing the shuttle service was assigned to the Office of Commuter Student Affairs. There is, however, evidence of the Black Student Union’s involvement in more recent documents. Beginning with the 2000-2001 edition, the Shuttle-UM Driver Handbook states that “Shuttle-UM was started in 1972 by members of the Black Student Union, in response to a rash of nighttime assaults on campus.”

For more information, we turned to issues of the Diamondback and Black Explosion (the Black Student Union’s newspaper) from the fall of 1972. Articles from the latter paper (Oct 6thNov 20th) document the BSU’s security efforts, including a volunteer escorting service provided for black female students and a campus patrol group. The escort service is also mentioned in a Diamondback article (Nov 9th) about a newer service run by another group.  Additionally, the BSU President submitted a proposal to the Chancellor, SGA, and others on November 10th detailing the BSU’s efforts and making further recommendations, although it does not seem to have specifically mentioned shuttle service. Meanwhile, articles in the Diamondback (Oct 25th, Nov 1st, Nov 2nd, Nov 9th, & Nov 14th) corroborate the account given in the Office of Commuter Student Affair’s 1976 paper. The Chancellor announced plans for a mini-bus shuttle service in early November, the SGA purchased two vehicles on the 10th, and the shuttle service began soon after (with the administration covering operating costs). A follow-up article (Nov 28th) in the Diamondback reported the success the shuttle and other security measures. For more detailed information on the efforts of both student groups, you can read the articles themselves, linked above!

BSU Escorts Unlimited, 1972
The BSU’s “Escorts Unlimited” service for black female students in action. (Black Explosion, 11/20/1972)

It is not clear from the student newspaper coverage at the time whether the Black Student Union was directly involved in the implementation of the evening security shuttle service that would eventually become Shuttle-UM, but it is clear that the BSU and the SGA were both concerned with student (particularly women’s) safety and security initiatives. Furthermore, the BSU’s escort service and campus patrol groups appear to have predated many other security initiatives, and the former could be considered a predecessor to the Call-A-Ride and security shuttle service. It is also possible that the Black Student Union’s involvement was underreported, so if any of our readers remember this era on campus, or otherwise have more specific knowledge regarding the Black Student Union’s role, we would love to hear from you in the comments! Thanks to Matthew Riddick for bringing up this facet of UMD’s history!

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One thought on “Shuttle-UM and the Black Student Union

  1. Pingback: Happy Anniversary, Shuttle-UM! | Terrapin Tales

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